This week, I voted for a four-week national lockdown in England to protect people, prevent our NHS from being overwhelmed and save lives.
I voted in favour with great reluctance. Ultimately, like the Prime Minister, I had no desire to see our country closed once again. However, the threat of a tidal wave of coronavirus patients, which the NHS believes could overwhelm our hospitals, gives the Government little choice.
If we allowed coronavirus to soar out of control, overwhelming the NHS, not only could thousands of people lose their lives to the cruel virus but to other illnesses as well. By acting now, we can drive coronavirus back down and keep the NHS open over the winter for anyone who needs it.
I understand that this is a big ask of everyone here in the Orpington constituency and across England. Especially so for those whose livelihoods will be impacted once again to stem the tide of the virus.
Orpington's businesses were only just getting back on their feet and now they are being asked to close again. If the Government had not announced greater support for businesses and measures to protect jobs, I would have opposed this move.
This week, the Government has announced substantial measures to protect jobs, wages and businesses over the difficult winter months ahead. These include extending the furlough scheme until the end of March, increasing the grant for self-employed people, and supporting businesses with grants and extended loans.
Importantly, this lockdown is different from the one back in March. Orpington's schools will remain open. The rules allow you to meet one other person outside. And support bubbles for single-person households continue.
After lobbying from myself and other MPs, plans to stop pubs serving takeaway drinks have been reversed. This was allowed earlier this year and helps these businesses stay afloat.
I am also asking the Government to publish the evidence behind the decision to close gyms, ban some outdoor sports and prevent public worship. If they can be carried out safely and the evidence doesn't support the bans, I will push for these activities to be allowed.
Although I believe we have no choice but to lockdown again, I do not believe recurring lockdowns can continue to be an acceptable answer. We need to find a way to live our lives alongside this virus safely until a vaccine is found and distributed. I recognise there is no easy solution, but we can't keep closing our country.
In the coming weeks, I will be pushing the Government to come up with a plan to avoid any further lockdowns and keep the virus under control.
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